While most students were making last-minute runs to Target last week to get ready for the start of school, LSA junior Kelly Bernero was casting a vote for a presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Bernero, the former chair of the University’s chapter of Students for Hillary, spent the week mingling with Democratic bigwigs, networking with other young Democrats and participating in various caucuses for groups within the party. But the highlight, she said, was doing it with her father, Virg Bernero, the Democratic mayor of Lansing.
“If it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t have so much of an interest in politics,” she said. “Since I was in third grade, I’ve been following him around to political events and we were finally equals at an event.”
For her father, who admitted following his daughter’s lead in endorsing Sen. Hillary Clinton in her bid for the presidency, it was a proud occasion.
“To have her there, it was just terrific. It’s hard to describe. It brings a tear to my eye,” the first-term mayor of Michigan’s capital said.
Kelly, 20, was the third-youngest member of the Michigan delegation. Eight people from Michigan’s 157-person delegation were under the age of 25.
Virgil said Kelly was selected as a delegate because of her work for the Clinton campaign, not because of her father’s connections.
“She was everybody’s first choice because all the party folks knew how hard she’d worked,” he said.
Any member of the Michigan Democratic Party can apply to be a delegate.
After an application process, potential delegates are elected at the local and state level, said Elizabeth Kerr, communications director for the Michigan Democratic Party, in a statement yesterday.
The Berneros arrived at the convention as Clinton delegates, though the New York senator released her delegates to vote for Sen. Barack Obama. Still, Kelly continued to support the candidate she’d backed for more than a year-and-a-half. She cast her vote for Clinton via paper ballot.
“I worked really hard for her last school year as the chair of Students for Hillary,” she said. “For me, it came down to the historic chance that I had to vote for a woman president.”
Virg voted for Obama, saying it was time for the party to coalesce behind its candidate.
“Hillary herself had endorsed Barack, so it made no sense for me to cast my vote for anybody but Barack Obama,” he said.
Both Berneros said Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday night was the best part of their week in Denver, as well as a turning point in their political allegiance.
“We were both so touched, I knew we were, and I didn’t even have to say it,” Virg said. “We both had a tear in our eye and it was about patriotism and love of this country.”
Aside from the political implications of the speech, Virg enjoyed the opportunity to spend the historic moment with his daughter.
“It was at once a very big, big moment, and also a very personal, intimate moment with my daughter,” he said. “Even though we were among 80,000 people, for a minute it was just the two of us, and I hugged her.”
Virg said that while he enjoyed his opportunity to attend the convention this year, he was unsure if he would go again in 2012.
“That’d be awesome,” Kelly said when asked if she was hoping to attend the next Democratic National Convention. “I’d go back as a delegate again, and again, and again.”